Gettysburg College Expands Efforts to Combat Sexual Violence on Campus with Department of Justice Grant
By Sarah Kirkpatrick ’20, Staff Writer
After receiving a $299,093 grant from the Justice’s Department’s Office on Violence Against Women Grants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking on Campus Program, Gettysburg College has undertaken a massive project to prevent sexual and domestic violence on campus as well to provide assistance to survivors of these crimes. One of College’s first steps in the initiative was hiring Grant Project Coordinator Valentina Cucuzza, a welcome addition to the Gettysburg community.
“My primary role is to lead all communication and coordination for on- and off-campus victims’ resources,” explains Cucuzza, “My job is to ensure that information flows freely among all offices and that efforts are not being duplicated amongst our many dedicated on-campus partners in violence prevention.” This team of dedicated partners includes groups like Survivors, Inc., the Gettysburg Borough Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office, but continues to add new members.
As Grant Project Coordinator, Cucuzza argues that one of her main priorities is the creation of a Campus Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT), a “multidisciplinary team of campus and community partners that meet regularly to assess, plan, monitor, and evaluate campus prevention and response efforts.” The team plans to use the groundwork established by the Sexual Violence and Healthy Relationships Committee (SVHR), which existed before the College received the DOJ grant, as the foundation for their group. They also look forward to working with new partners such as a SAFE nurse from the Gettysburg Hospital, the Adams County Assistant District Attorney, local law enforcement, and Ms. Jessica Ritter, a recently hired Victims’ Services Advocate from Survivors, Inc.
As a new member of the Gettysburg staff, Ritter will also play an important role in providing on-campus confidential resources for students who have been the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. Ritter is qualified to offer crisis counseling as well as medical and legal advocacy to survivors who seek her assistance in the healing process.
Armed with skilled new members and ample funding, Cucuzza explains that the Grant Project team hopes to “enhance victim services, implement prevention and education programs, and develop and strengthen security and investigation strategies to prevent prosecute and respond to domestic violence” as well as related crimes such as dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The College plans to achieve these goals through a carefully designed three-year plan, which begins with a focus on planning and training the team responsible for executing the initiative. In the year two, the Grant Project will execute strategic plans on campus, which include establishing new prevention programs designed to assist underserved or high-risk student populations such as LGBTQIA, minority groups, and students involved in Greek Organizations. By the third year of the program, the College plans to shift its focus to employing training programs, such as Green Dot Bystander training, that will help to continue on the project’s legacy even after its conclusion.
“My goal is to have all students be aware and comfortable utilizing all of the resources available to them should they ever experience sexual assault or domestic violence during their time here at Gettysburg College,” Cucuzza explains, “We want students to feel supporting and know that Gettysburg College is really committed to preventing violence in our community.” Along with the rest of the Grant Project team, Cucuzza hopes to expand on existing violence prevention programs, establish new, more inclusive prevention service, and reduce victimization on campus. She urges students to contact her if they are interested in developing a new program or training for a specific student organization or to reach out to Ms. Ritter if they require confidential resources.
Many Gettysburg students show enthusiasm for the Grant Project, hoping that it will help to transform our campus culture and reduce the prevalence of crimes such as sexual assault. “I think the grant will give the college more resources to better educate our community and put sexual assault and domestic violence prevention methods into practice,” asserts First Year Sammi Singman.
Jackson Guyton, a First Year and Green Dot Program participant, echoes similar optimism for the plan. “I think the grant should be used to inform campus community members about ways to reduce the risk of sexual assault,” explains Guyton, “I anticipate that it will help Gettysburg students to be more excellent to each other.” Time will only tell whether this age-old vision will become a reality, but with new funding and plans to improve life on Gettysburg’s campus, the future looks hopeful.
Editor’s Note: The grant amount was incorrectly reported in the print edition of The Gettysburgian on Thursday, February 9th. Gettysburg College was only allocated $299,093 as one of 61 grants awarded through this program totaling $25 million.